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The Tangled Tree

A Radical New History of Life
Narrated by: Jacques Roy
Length: 13 hrs and 48 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

Our understanding of the ‘tree of life’, with powerful implications for human genetics, human health and our own human nature, has recently completely changed.

This audiobook is about a new method of telling the story of life on earth - through molecular phylogenetics. It involves a fairly simple method - the reading of the deep history of life by looking at the variation in protein molecules found in living organisms. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection. 

In The Tangled Tree, acclaimed science writer David Quammen chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them - such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the 20th century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about ‘mosaic’ creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health. 

Quammen explains how molecular studies of evolution have brought startling recognitions about the tangled tree of life - including where we humans fit into it. Thanks to new technologies, we now have the ability to alter even our genetic composition - through sideways insertions, as nature has long been doing. The Tangled Tree is a brilliant exploration of our transformed understanding of evolution and of life’s history itself.

©2018 David Quammen (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

Praise for David Quammen: "One of that rare breed of science journalists who blends exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling." (Nature)

‘Mr. Quammen is, by trade, neither professional environmentalist nor scientist. He is a writer. And the book he has worked on for 10 years is intelligent, playful and refreshingly free of cant.... In Mr. Quammen’s hands, the bad news of species extinction unaccountably uplifts. For it reminds us of nature’s sheer, ornery diversity, and why it needs to be preserved. We share in the excitement of a new scientific discipline aborning. By book’s end, we glean hints of hope that the future may not be entirely bleak.... Here is what a book can be." (New York Times Book Review)

"Quammen is no ordinary writer. He is simply astonishing, one of that rare class of writer gifted with verve, ingenuity, humour, guts, and great heart." (Elle)

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  • Mr. W. R. Francis
  • 07-26-19

Fantastic book, well read

Only quibble: I wish Jacques Roy hadn’t done the accents of the scientists he’s quoting! Really odd and not necessary

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  • Olwyn Kelly
  • 11-22-18

Fascinating

Excellent overview of horizontal gene transfer. Also gives an insight into the working life of elite scientists. Perhaps a little too much on the biographies of those scientists, though.

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  • Christine
  • 11-06-18

Accessible science

The constant of the Tangled Tree of the title keeps a good structure to the book as it took me to barely understood realms of science, this coupled with descriptions of the people involved made for an enjoyable and enlightening listen to a soft American accent. A good companion to Restless Creatures also in Audible

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  • Frank Sullivan
  • 10-09-18

Excellent

Highly recommend this book for those with an interest in life sciences, evolution, biology, health

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  • Annalie
  • 10-09-18

Fascinating!

A fascinating account of evolutionary biology and genetics, especially the discovery of Archaea and horizontal gene transfer. Also an insightful story of the work of Carl Woese and his team.